Side Effects: An FBI Psychological Thriller

BOOK: Side Effects: An FBI Psychological Thriller
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
WARNING: Side effects may include the ability to catch a killer…
FBI Agent Maggie Allen had a gift for catching serial killers.
Now, following the death of her husband and son, she can barely get out of bed.
Desperate, Maggie agrees to take part in a drug trial—a last-ditch effort to find something that might help her cope.
The drug helps.
However, it also carries several unpleasant side effects, not the least of them being an exceptional heightening of all her senses…just the kind of thing her old partner could use to help the FBI track down a prolific serial killer who is proving impossible to catch.
Jeff Menapace
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Dr. Cole opened his notebook and clicked a pen. “Whenever you’re ready, Maggie.”

I asked: “You know what today is, Dr. Cole?”


“It’s Irony Appreciation Day.”

Dr. Cole gave an amused little smile. “Is it?”

I nodded. “It is. Do you appreciate irony?”

“Depends on the circumstances, I suppose.”

I raised an index finger. “Ah, but it’s Irony
Day. You don’t have to like it, just appreciate it. Like a great actor who’s a jerk in real life.”

Another amused little smile. He never gave big ones. “Okay then.”

“Okay then. Here’s my contribution; tell me if you can appreciate it. Ready?”


“I survived the crash because I wanted to die. My husband died
because he wanted to live.” I splayed my hands. “What do you think?”




“The doctor said I’d survived because I’d been asleep,” I said. “My body had been limp, and this allowed me to walk away from it all with only a few bumps and bruises. My husband died because he was rigid when the car rolled. His body was like glass in a dryer, mine like a rag.

“Here’s the thing, why the doctor is half-right: I wasn’t asleep—I told the doctor I’d
asleep, but I wasn’t. I was awake, and I knew exactly what was going to happen moments before that drunk in his truck T-boned us. I knew what was going to happen and I didn’t fight it. I let go.” I gave that helpless little chuckle people do when the only other alternative was to cry. “I let go and I lived because of it. The truck had even struck my side, the passenger side. And yet still Mike was killed, almost instantly I was told.”

Doctor Cole scribbled something in his notebook and then placed his attention back on me.

“I’ve heard of things like that before,” I continued. “You know, like when a sky-diver’s chute doesn’t open, they faint from fear, then hit the ground limp and live because of it.”

“Except you didn’t faint,” Dr. Cole said.


“You were awake for it all.”


“Why did you tell the doctor you’d been asleep?”

“I don’t know. It seemed convenient.”

“Better a more palatable tale to steer concern away from the truth?”

“Exactly. If I’d died in the accident it wouldn’t have been suicide—it would have been vehicular manslaughter. Not my fault. Not suicide.”

“The opportunity you’d been hoping for.”


“You believe that your ability to see the accident moments before it happened, and thus
it to happen, would somehow absolve you from the religious concerns you have about suicide?”

I knew what he was getting at. “You’re saying it’s still suicide.”

Dr. Cole rarely says yes or no; he poses questions with attainable answers and waits for you. So I went.

“If you’ve seen the things I have over the course of my career, never mind the goings-on in my own so-called life, you can certainly understand why I find the notion of heaven and hell—
all of it
—ludicrous. But I was baptized Catholic. I was taught that suicides go to hell. If there’s even the slightest chance that’s true, that something like heaven and hell do exist…”

“Then you would never see your son again, assuming you took your own life.” He then added, with what I think was equal parts logic and concern: “Or allowed someone to take it for you.”

“Yes,” I conceded softly. “If Christopher’s up there waiting for me…”

“With his father now,” he added.


A brief pause.

“I imagine you were on a full dose of the drug the day of the crash?” he asked.


“Which would explain why you were able to see the accident moments before it happened,” he said, not asked.

Still, I replied: “Yes.”

“And what prompted you to take a full dose that day? It’s been three weeks since we began tapering. You’ve been doing well.”

“Mike and I had a fight,” I said.


“The usual. Christopher’s passing. Me being dead inside, unable to move on.”

“You took a full dose to help you cope after the fight?”

“Yes and no. We’d done nothing
fight since Christopher started getting bad; I’m used to that. But we were going out that night. It was”—I snorted at the notion—“an attempt at a new beginning.”

“So you took the drug to help you cope with the evening out?”

I shrugged. “I guess it was both—the fight
the evening out.”

“How soon after ingesting the drug did your senses become as acute as they do?”

“I don’t know; it’s different every time.” I gave it more thought. I remembered smelling dog crap at a stop light on the way to the restaurant. The windows were up. I looked around and saw no dogs, but figured it didn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t one—or its breakfast—nearby. At the next light, maybe two blocks up, there was a guy cleaning up after his dog. The smell was so strong at that point I almost gagged. “An hour maybe?” I eventually added, sparing Dr. Cole the dog shit story.

“What sense triggered the loudest alarm before the truck hit you?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like all of them sound at once.”

Dr. Cole dropped his eyes, not his head, and scribbled more in his notebook. He then said: “You mentioned Agent Morris before we officially started.”


“He came to see you in the hospital?”


“To see if you were all right.”

I nodded.

“And that was all?”

I hated when he did this. He was like a parent waiting for their kid to tell the truth.

“No. He asked for my help.”

“You’re on sick leave.”

“He wasn’t officially asking me to come back.”


I shook my head. “I’d be like a consultant. At least until I was”—I made air quotes with both hands—“‘ready to return.’”

“His words?”

“They weren’t mine.”

“Why do you think he needs you as a”—his turn at air quotes—“‘consultant’? The Bureau has more than its share of competent agents for dealing with serial murder.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. He knew why. And he knew
knew why. Yet there he sat, waiting for me to say it. Maybe it was a necessary part of my therapy I hadn’t yet grasped.

I gave him what he wanted. “You and Morris are the only ones who know about the drug’s effect on me,” I said.

“Agent Morris knows the
effect. He’s unaware of the side effects.”

“What happens to me when I take it
a side effect,” I said.

“You know what I mean, Maggie.”

Yes, I did. Regular use of the drug caused a whole bunch of unpleasant side effects. Hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, diarrhea (having no social life helps with that one), type 2 diabetes, insomnia. Many people in the trial had dropped out. I stayed because the drug was the only thing—and I’d tried them all—that actually got me out of bed in the morning. Forever indebted to me (his words), Dr. Cole had reluctantly agreed to treat my side effects with more drugs. And of course they too had their side effects, didn’t they? Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I’d promised Dr. Cole I’d start tapering down from a full dose of the drug to see if we could find a therapeutic level that managed fewer side effects. And I had been. And it was going…okay, I guess. But after the fight with Mike, I guess you could say I fell off the wagon. And now here I was, asking my doctor of all people for another fix.

“Apparently, they’re stuck on one,” I said. “A bad one.”

Dr. Cole sat back in his chair and sighed, silently acknowledging my diversion. He allowed it though. “How bad?”

“Five so far. All men.”

“Is that uncommon?”

“Depends on how you interpret the odds.” And then before I realized the implications of what I was about to say: “Presently, women account for about seventy percent of known victims of serial killers.”

Dr. Cole did not look away, but his eyes flinched for a second. I admired his control. Always have. At the trial, he was given a chance to speak about his wife and Thomas Hays, and he was exceptionally composed. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’ve been a mess since Christopher. If cancer was a man, I’d have shot him stone dead at his trial, no question.

I did not address or apologize for the implication I’d made. I was, after all, responding to his question with a fact. Dr. Cole knew this. A blink later and it was like it never happened. “And what is this serial predator’s M.O.?” he asked.

“Well, that’s the thing—it’s still murky. Each victim died from blunt force trauma. And it’s excessive too; he really does a number on them.”

“Which indicates rage, a lack of control.”

“Right. Except to abduct all of these men—to do what he’s done—requires premeditation. It’s not impulsive.”

“If all you have are five men who have been beaten to death, how can the Bureau be so sure they’re dealing with the same culprit?”

“All victims were found cuffed behind the back, and the ligature marks on the wrists are extreme. This likely means that the victims weren’t just cuffed and dispatched quickly. He did something with them while they were cuffed—something that made them want to shred their wrists down to the bone in an effort to get away.”

Dr. Cole made a subtle but disturbed face as though he envisioned raw bone.

BOOK: Side Effects: An FBI Psychological Thriller
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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